While we were driving through Oregon, we decided to drive through the south side of the Columbia Gorge and up through the Deschutes River valley. This twisting winding drive down one side of the river and up the other would have been really fun in a sports car! Returning to the river for some rafting and fishing are definitely on our list. We dropped down into Bend Oregon and passed through quickly, hoping to stop at the Lava Beds National Monument at sunset but we were greeted with locked gates – closed for the season. So on we went, hoping to find somewhere to stay along the road before the turn off to Crater Lake but nothing really presented itself – again, several things were closed for the season. On we went to Klamath Falls where we checked into a Shiloh just off the highway.
Up early the next morning, we drove back to the turnoff towards the Lake and crossed wide flats of cow country and a couple small settlements that included some small cottage type lodging options – wish we’d taken the chance to drive in here the night before. On we went towards the mountain in the distance until we finally left the flats and started driving up into the pine forest. We stopped to take a picture of a river canyon and were amazed by both the chill in the air and the pine scent it carried. Onward and upward and we came to the visitor center where we bought a National Park Passport and put the first stamp in it. Then came our first decision – do we drive the loop clockwise or counterclockwise. As the driver and photographer, I chose – counterclockwise so the morning sun would be behind us as we looked at the lake.
We stopped early on to walk up to a viewpoint and found that the elevation does take its toll on a couple of sea level dwellers – the air felt thin – but the view was well worth it and the forest was so peaceful. While the star is the lake, the trees are equally amazing in their own ancient, twisted way.
The view from the first overlook is a rock formation called Phantom Ship – it is possible to see it from other viewpoints as well so you really get a see its different sides.
Back in the truck, we found the road to be very twisting, narrow and some areas of sheer dropoffs on the side, but the views were well worth it. There are many viewpoints to see the incredible color of the lake and a few places to picnic, though none have a view of the lake. However, there is only one place to get to the water and it is supposed to be a very steep dusty trail – we were going to try it but it was the only truly busy area outside of the the visitors centers so we skipped it.
At another viewpoint, you can see the crater wall and a rock formation called the Castle – it is a completely different color as the wall it perches on and reminds me of the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.
While we were there, this little chipmunk came out to visit. He was obviously used to people and seemed ready to run up my pant leg looking for a handout. When I had nothing to offer, he ran up on the sign and posed for this perspective shot.
Back down the mountain, we stopped again to look over the river canyon and some interesting formations in the walls of the canyon – hollow spires of soil that looked like fairy temples. We did not see those on the way up, pointing out that driving both directions around the lake would also have been a good idea. I think a return trip will be on our list.